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Reviews: Epics - Cincinnati Pops Orchestra/Erich Kunzel

Reviews: 4

Review by Dinko October 4, 2003 (1 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Disappointing. As is often the case, the Cincinnati Pops lacks the necessary weight to pull off a great film music rerecording, let alone one dedicated to epic scores. Maybe if they used a couple of more microphones closer to the strings - that might give them more body.

Not that the sonics overall deserve much praise. Well-recorded brass instruments, but too much bass in the percussion, with an awful amount of reverb. The strings & woodwinds sound extremely distant. There are good upper and lower frequencies, but it's somehow empty in the middle frequencies making the whole thing sound even more hollow.

Ben Hur, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Gone With the Wind, Spartacus, Star Wars and Doctor Zhivago come off rather well. They get focused, often exciting performances.

The Overture from Lawrence of Arabia is good but has been done better elsewhere (John Williams and the London Symphony on Sony Classical for example).

I find Minority Report to be an improvement over the original soundtrack recording.

Harry Potter is good enough to almost equal the original soundtrack and surpass other recordings.

The Magnificent Seven suite isn't too bad to my ears, but then I never paid much attention to any other Mag7 recordings, so I don't know. Though it seems too 'cultivated' and polished, lacking an extra bit of aggressivity which would seem to benefit the music.

The truly disappointing parts are Gladiator, Pearl Harbor, Crouching Tiger and Lord of the Rings.
Pearl Harbor lacks the martial tightness found on the OST. Kunzel's version is a little limp.
The arrangement of Gladiator is a useless mess (by far inferior to the Silva arrangement). It jumps all over the place, motifs from Zimmer's score appear and disappear in complete incoherence.

Lord of the Rings sounds like a James Last arrangement. Might work for Titanic. It doesn't work for LOTR.

Crouching Tiger starts with potential, but quickly enters James Last territory as well. It ends up sounding neither epic, nor serene, nor chinese, nor anything like the OST. It's mostly just plain lame. Where again the strings are burried in the mix the very moment any other part of the orchestra starts playing.

And when it comes to lameness, the booklet is king. Jimmy won this, Jeffrey won that, William won the other thing... who cares!? Seems like the only composer who did not win or get nominated for an Academy Award or any other award is Richard Strauss. "Who won what" is the only focus of the liner notes.

That said, on the whole, the disc somehow still comes off as a coherent whole (minus the Gladiator mess). The orchestra is very satisfying, with none of the ugly brass of another orchestra so often used for film score rerecordings. Kunzel's readings attempt to showcase the best aspects of the scores, under the circumstances at least.

For a supposed audiophile label though, the sound is rather poor. I find it ruins the album. Whether it's the wet acoustics of the hall, a small orchestra, not enough microphones, deliberate choices in the mixing process... either way the strings & woodwinds are completely overpowered by the brass, let alone by the percussion which completely covers everything else.
The multichannel mix opens things up a little, but it still remains reverbful with an annoyingly exaggerated bass line.

The disc just never lives up to its "epic" concept.

Oh well...

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Review by thepilot September 5, 2004
Performance:   Sonics:
Has Telarc forgotten how to record Cincinnati Pops and Kunzel. Where is the glorious sound of 1812, let alone the fantastic sound (in stereo PCM only) of the Great Fantasy Adventure album, and the old Star Tracks album? What is wrong with recent Cincinnati Pops records in terms of sound quality and performance, where is that old Kunzel spark?
And how can the Cincinnati Symphony records be better and better all the time and the Cincinnati Pops albums worse and worse?
Not good at all, only 3 stars performance and recording.

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Review by sledge19 November 21, 2004 (1 of 1 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Yes, I have to agree, newer projects of the CPO are lacking sometimes tempo and effort.

On the other hand, I think that "EPICS" is one of the better ones recently issued.

One of my favorites is "Gladiator". The original movie soundtrack is typical Zimmer - the music is completely and uncompromisingly tailored for the screen action, which makes it difficult for me to listen to. The arrangement on the Kunzel SACD however, combines and comprises all of the important themes. All themes are short, but on the original soundtrack they are short as well. Kunzel's performance could be faster, but the ending with the "Honor Him" theme and the great sonics/dnyamics (incl. organ) make up for it.

My absolute favorite (and this took a while) is "Harry Potter". Starting rather unimpressive and close to the original. But the sonices and the dynamics later in the piece make it now hard for me to listen to the original movie soundtrack. Espcially the celeste at the beginning shows the superior quality of SACD.

"Lord of the Rings" is a blend of the movie themes. It might not be a perfect mixture, but gives you at least an overview of the music of LOTR.

Also recommended on this SACD: "Also sprach Zarathustra", "Gone with the Wind" (similar to the older recording, but better sound), "Pearl Harbor", "Star Wars", "Minority Report" and the "Magnificent Seven", which are truly magnicifent and are like the older Kunzel recording (from "Round Up") of this piece, but with much better sound.

Rear speakers are mostly used for ambience, however, there is a lot missing, when they are not present.

Review of the multi-channel mix (w/o sub-woofer, but main speakers with 12.2 inch woofers).

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Review by Luukas April 23, 2014 (1 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Good album for famous movie themes. Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra plays flawless and Telarc's multi-channel sound is excellent. Recommend.

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